Finding the Fantastic Beasts Text, 5.3 — Jacob Kowalski: Is He Bigger than Newt?

fb435.3: Jacob Kowalski and the Missing Mildred Moment

Two of the six scenes that were cut out of the shooting script written by Rowling discussed in part three of this series (links to all the posts in the series are listed at the bottom of each post), turn on Jacob Kowalski, three if you include the Ilvermorny School Song segment in which his ad lib response is an important part. The No-Maj in the movie took a serious beat-down in the cutting room; we get a lot less Jacob in the film we saw in the theaters than Rowling had her in her final script.

mildredThe first and most important missing piece is his return to his tenement building after being turned down for a loan at the bank. His fiancee, Mildred, meets him there, hears his news, brushes off his story about meeting a wizard (I’ll guess that she thinks he’s drunk?), and returns his engagement ring. Yates and Heyman both say it’s a great scene, that it will be one of the DVD extras, but that it wasn’t necessary. They tell us it was cut because the audience doesn’t need any more reason to love Jacob.

The second scene that is cut was Jacob’s romp with Dougal the Demiguise in the Department store which Dan Fogler described as his re-make of the first Indiana Jones movie’s sequence where Indy is dragged around by a German troop carrier (it happens to be Fowler’s favorite film).

fb18I explained at some length the folly of cutting out the Mildred moment in part three. It neglects a core piece of Rowling’s artistry, what Lin Manuel Miranda calls her “mastery of the reprise” and we call parallelism or “ring scaffolding,” and all but erases the powerful echo reaching across the story from Mildred’s goodbye to Jacob at the start to Queenie’s hello at the finish. The story turn scene of Jacob alone in the MACUSA jail cell is the dead center moment of the film and highlights his transformation, beginning to end, like Dobby’s in Chamber of Secrets, as the point of the story.

Here I only want to add a neglected but more obvious pair of points. After the jump!

fb22As the No-Maj in the story, Jacob Kowalski is the non-magical reader and, though Newt has ‘blue-green eyes’ according to the rap sheet we read in part four, eyes like The Presence’s, Jacob’s ‘J. K.’ initials point to his also being the non-magical author in the Wizarding World. His transformation is meant to mirror our own as the audience of the film and reader of the screenplay. Just as Jacob has his eyes opened to the magic everywhere in the world after meeting Newt and company and then has to forget when he steps out of the subway, I mean ‘theater,’ so Rowling hopes we will retain some memory of the magic, her message, as Jacob clearly does, even if only unconsciously.

silkwormThat unconscious, imaginative memory, she is telling us shows in our creative choices, the shapes of the pastries we choose to make. J.K. is talking to us, changing us through Jacob’s images and example. This is consistent with Rowling’s insertion in her novels of a book or story that her characters struggle to understand, through which struggle the author is depicting as in a mirror we are meant to be aware of our struggle with her text — and how she hopes to be understood. Think of the diary in Chamber of Secrets, the Tale of Three Brothers about the ‘Deathly Hallows’ in the book called Deathly Hallows, and the novel Bombyx Mori (Silkworm) within the Cormoran Strike mystery The Silkworm.

I’ll have more to say on this ‘intratextuality’ or self-referencing in 5.6 on Dougall the Demiguise and his cut scenes. For now, though, please note that Jacob is the representative of Muggle-dom, which is to say, ‘us,’ and through him Rowling, ‘J. K., ‘ is speaking to us about the aims of her story telling. This is story telling at its most sophisticated so if you’re startled or skeptical or both, reflect on that surprise you’re feeling for a moment. Is it because you’ve bought into the always always unstated but nigh universal meme that this is “just entertainment” not serious artistry? A kid’s book or fun movie?

fb34The second point about the Jacob Cut Scenes is that the story is about eugenics. Both Ezra Miller and David Heyman have said as much in their interviews and I’d bet the idea is not something they realized themselves or independently. It seems likely that the eugenics note was in either the shooting script “book” as an aside or in Rowling’s briefings with the actors.

Take this recent twitter note that Rowling sent a fan that was uncomfortable with how attractive Gilbert Grindelwald’s message is at the end of Fantastic Beasts.

Like, in a way I see that she makes sense, but is it wrong that I also see sense in things Grindelwald mentioned?

It isn’t wrong. That’s our story…

The story, full stop, is about the appeal of the eugenics and nationalist, populist messaging today and how best to expose and confront it.

Enter Jacob Kowalski, non wizard, representative of the clueless Muggle millions the magical elite want to herd and subject to their rule. I am confident that the only No-Maj to have ever graced a spellbound story in Rowling’s ouevre is there to play a crucial part in upsetting this eugenicist power-play, which is to say, in Gellert Grindelwald’s defeat.

fb55Dan Fogler says that Rowling has told him that Jacob’s “transformation” is going to be “incredible.” The No-Maj’s story is our story, and, as J.K., he is the person telling us the story that is supposed to be our take-away. Any cuts that diminish or delete aspects of Kowalski’s story are going to make that central transformation less powerful. We are supposed to experience and assimilate Jacob’s transformation and role in defeating Grindelwald in Rowling’s hope that we will resist today’s eugenicists and populist politicians — read the months of Twitter feeds she has made about Scottish nationalists, pro-Brexit voters, and Trump supporters, folks — by our having recalled, if only unconsciously, what we experienced of courage and goodness alongside Jacob.

His scenes with Mildred and Dougal? We needed them both. Cutting them undermines Rowling’s artistry and her message, the meaning we enter into and take-out of Fantastic Beasts. Jacob Kowalski is in many ways more the star of the show than Newt Scamander — and the filmmakers don’t get that.

Next? Grindelgraves-Credence and what the shooting script text we can discern tells us about this critical relationship that the film and published “original screenplay” doesn’t.

Unlocking Fantastic Beasts: Finding the Text Round Up

Part 5A: So What? The Found Text and Its Meaning

Part 5B: The Shooting Script — A Corrected Text for Serious Readers

Part 5C: Conclusions and Predictions

 

Comments

  1. Suzanne Lucero says:

    My hope is that, when the DVD is released, the six deleted scenes will be integrated into an extended edition, ala The Lord of the Rings, rather than presented as a set of deleted scenes. That way the movie can be experienced in the way Jo intended, rather than presented chopped up like a puzzle that can’t be put together.

  2. Calvin Sommers says:

    FBAWTFT was admittedly fun for me to watch, largely due to the fact that I only got into HP after the final movie in the series came out and I got to witness the AWESOME wizard battles and magical beasts on the big screen for the first time. But to me it is pretty undeniable that JK Rowling has largely let herself go over the past year or so in order to pander to the regressive-minded liberals in her audience and that this film doesn’t really sell much of a coherent message and is instead meant to cheer up people who are terrified of the up-coming Trumpocalypse.

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